Endocrine functions of bile acids

Sander M. Houten, Mitsuhiro Watanabe, Johan Auwerx

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

466 Citations (Scopus)


Bile acids (BAs), a group of structurally diverse molecules that are primarily synthesized in the liver from cholesterol, are the chief components of bile. Besides their well-established roles in dietary lipid absorption and cholesterol homeostasis, it has recently emerged that BAs are also signaling molecules, with systemic endocrine functions. BAs activate mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways, are ligands for the G-protein-coupled receptor TGR5, and activate nuclear hormone receptors such as farnesoid X receptor α. Through activation of these diverse signaling pathways, BAs can regulate their own enterohepatic circulation, but also triglyceride, cholesterol, energy, and glucose homeostasis. Thus, BA-controlled signaling pathways are promising novel drug targets to treat common metabolic diseases, such as obesity, type II diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1419-1425
Number of pages7
JournalEMBO Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2006 Apr 5
Externally publishedYes


  • Bile acids
  • Gene expression
  • Metabolism
  • Nuclear receptors
  • Signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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